Navigation Links
Early human burials varied widely but most were simple
Date:2/21/2013

DENVER (Feb. 21, 2013) A new study from the University of Colorado Denver shows that the earliest human burial practices in Eurasia varied widely, with some graves lavish and ornate while the vast majority were fairly plain.

"We don't know why some of these burials were so ornate, but what's striking is that they postdate the arrival of modern humans in Europe by almost 10,000 years," said Julien Riel-Salvatore, Ph.D., assistant professor of anthropology at CU Denver and lead author of the study. "When they appear around 30,000 years ago some are lavish but many aren't and over time the most elaborate ones almost disappear. So, the behavior of humans does not always go from simple to complex; it often waxes and wanes in terms of its complexity depending on the conditions people live under."

The study, which examined 85 burials from the Upper Paleolithic period, found that men were buried more often than women. Infants were buried only sporadically, if at all in later periods, a difference that could be related to changes in subsistence, climate and the ability to keep babies alive, Riel-Salvatore said.

It also showed that a few ornate burials in Russia, Italy and the Czech Republic dating back nearly 30,000 years are anomalies, and not representative of most early Homo sapiens burial practices in Eurasia.

"The problem is that these burials are so rare there's just over three per thousand years for all of Eurasia that it's difficult to draw clear conclusions about what they meant to their societies," said Riel-Salvatore.

In fact, the majority of the burials were fairly plain and included mostly items of daily life as opposed to ornate burial goods. In that way, many were similar to Neanderthal graves. Both early humans and Neanderthals put bodies into pits sometimes with household items. During the Upper Paleolithic, this included ornaments worn by the deceased while they were alive. When present, ornaments of stone, teeth and shells are often found on the heads and torsos of the dead rather than the lower body, consistent with how they were likely worn in life.

"Some researchers have used burial practices to separate modern humans from Neanderthals," said Riel-Salvatore. "But we are challenging the orthodoxy that all modern human burials were necessarily more sophisticated than those of Neanderthals."

Many scientists believe that the capacity for symbolic behavior separates humans from Neanderthals, who disappeared about 35,000 years ago.

"It's thought to be an expression of abstract thinking" Riel-Salvatore said. "But as research progresses we are finding evidence that Neanderthals engaged in practices generally considered characteristic of modern humans."

Riel-Salvatore is an expert on early modern humans and Neanderthals. His last study proposed that, contrary to popular belief, early humans didn't wipe out Neanderthals but interbred with them, swamping them genetically. Another of his studies demonstrated that Neanderthals in southern Italy adapted, innovated and created technology before contact with modern humans, something previously considered unlikely.

This latest study, "Upper Paleolithic mortuary practices in Eurasia: A critical look at the burial record" co-authored with Claudine Gravel-Miguel (Arizona State University), will be published in The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of Death and Burial in April.

It reveals intriguing variation in early human burial customs between 10,000 and 35,000 years ago. And this study raises the question of why there was so much variability in early human burial practices.

"There seems to be little rhyme or reason to it," Riel-Salvatore said. "The main point here is that we need to be careful of using exceptional examples of ornate burials to characterize Upper Paleolithic burial practices as a whole."


'/>"/>

Contact: David Kelly
david.kelly@ucdenver.edu
303-315-6374
University of Colorado Denver
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Virology researcher awarded nearly $2 million to study chronic hepatitis E
2. Early music lessons boost brain development
3. Early Bird Conference Registrations Expiring This Friday
4. LSUHSC scientist awarded nearly $2 million to determine role of biofilms in common fungal infection
5. Aztec conquest altered genetics among early Mexico inhabitants, new DNA study shows
6. Sex of early birds suggests dinosaur reproductive style
7. An early sign of spring, earlier than ever
8. New data challenge old views about evolution of early life
9. Mining ancient ores for clues to early life
10. Plant stress paints early picture of drought
11. Is the detection of early markers of Epstein Barr virus of diagnostic value?
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:8/15/2017)... --  ivWatch LLC , a medical device company focused on improving ... of its ISO 13485 Certification, the global standard for medical device ... (ISO®). ... Monitoring device for the early detection of IV infiltrations. ... "This is an important milestone for ivWatch, as it ...
(Date:6/14/2017)... June 15, 2017  IBM (NYSE: IBM ) is introducing ... event dedicated to developing collaboration between startups and global businesses, ... 15-17. During the event, nine startups will showcase the solutions ... various industries. France ... market, with a 30 percent increase in the number of ...
(Date:5/6/2017)... RAM Group , Singaporean based ... in biometric authentication based on a novel  ... to perform biometric authentication. These new sensors are based on ... Ram Group and its partners. This sensor will have ... and security. Ram Group is a next generation ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/12/2017)... , ... October 12, 2017 ... ... has launched Rosalind™, the first-ever genomics analysis platform specifically designed for life ... Named in honor of pioneering researcher Rosalind Franklin, who made a major ...
(Date:10/11/2017)... ... October 11, 2017 , ... Proscia Inc ., ... a Webinar titled, “Pathology is going digital. Is your lab ready?” with Dr. ... best practices and how Proscia improves lab economics and realizes an increase in ...
(Date:10/11/2017)... ... October 11, 2017 , ... ... has granted orphan drug designation to SBT-100, its novel anti-STAT3 (Signal Transducer and ... of osteosarcoma. SBT-100 is able to cross the cell membrane and bind intracellular ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... DALLAS , Oct. 10, 2017 International research firm ... IoT Strategy, will speak at the TMA 2017 Annual Meeting , ... key trends in the residential home security market and how smart safety ... ... "The ...
Breaking Biology Technology: